A columbarium is a permanent structure made up of spaces where family members can place urns containing the ashes (or cremains) of cremated loved ones. The word 'columbarium' is derived from the Latin term columba, meaning "dwelling place of a dove." The dove, of course, has long symbolized in Christian tradition the embodiment of the Holy Spirit.
Columbaria have grown in numbers in recent years as more and more people are choosing cremation for disposition of their own, or of family members, final remains. While some public cemeteries and mausoleums have constructed columbaria, the vast majority of these facilities are located at churches representing virtually every Christian denomination.
Clergy and lay leaders at churches where columbaria have been built cite several spiritual considerations that led their congregations to decide in favor of a columbarium. A columbarium on church grounds provides a final resting place with special meaning for church members for whom involvement in the church was an important part of life on earth. Also, for many congregations, a columbarium is a natural extension of the church's role as home for the sacraments and ceremonies members experience at different stages of their spiritual journeys-baptism, confirmation, communion, weddings and funerals.
There are practical considerations as well. A columbarium provides a spiritually meaninguful place where families can memorialize their loved ones when financial circumstances or the limited availability of conveniently located cemetery plots make earthen interment difficult or impractical. And in today's increasingly mobile society, placement of cremains in a columbarium allows the option of relocating loved ones' remains as families move or decide to place cremains in the care of different family members.
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